How can a child (or anyone else) stay safe?

Hot topic right now. Lot of discussion. But I have some specific questions I’d like to organize into one thread.

—So we’re all telling our kids not to fall for the “help me find my puppy” or “we’re giving away free gum” ruses. Assuming a child takes this seriously enough to ignore and walk away from such an introduction, how likely is it that the would-be kidnapper would simply grab the kid anyway?

—What can a child do, physically, to evade someone who’s trying to grab them, or get out of their grasp if they’ve already been caught?

—I feel terrible for Elizabeth Smart’s sister (Danielle?), who believed the big scary man when he said he’d hurt her, and now has to live with guilt. In that position, (watching a sibling being subdued) what can a child do?

—It’s always better to go ahead and make a scene and draw attention. But how would an assailant react in the time it takes someone to respond? And what should the child do then?

—Say an intruder comes into the house. Well, it’s your house; presumably, you know the layout better than they do. (Unless they’ve already cased it.) How can you use that to your advantage?

That’s all I have for now.

And in a rare occurence, I’m going to use my sig in GQ.

If someone breaks into your house (in the UK) it is best to let them take what they want, perhaps even help them out with it.

Oherwise they will sue you for damages, and probably win. Criminals are far better protected in law than home owners.

[sorry, this answer shouldn’t be in GQ]

So Howz Elizabeth Smart? I was in US when it happen & it was a big news. When i am back to HK, There are nothing about the kidnapping on the news. Update me. The latest i knew is that the suspect was not a suspect when he got overdozed & the new suspect is the ex-gardener.

CNN offers this advice:


However, i personally feel that no preparation or caution would be sufficient in thwarting a kidnap if the attacker overpowers the child by brute force. Which is extremely saddening.

I am thinking on the lines of some chip embedded under a kid’s skin which has the capability to transmit precise location information using gps. I see it as a possibility. Does anyone know of a similar solution in use anywhere ?

It’s hard to conjecture as to what a potential kidnapper might do if he or she is utterly determined to snatch a child. Perhaps loud screaming or other noise might deter a kidnapper, but I don’t think you can ever be sure. The girl that just escaped from her kidnappers in Philadelphia was able to chew through the duct tape that tied her feet and hands together, free her face, and climb through a window to get away (see article here). I think there’s no way to prevent anything from happening to your child, apart from watching them like a hawk and never letting them out of your sight. But sometimes that’s not even enough.

Second link was helpful, xash.

Yay for Erica Pratt!

Aro, I’m talking about kidnapping, not robbery. I’d let someone take my jewelry, but not my kid. Or myself. (I don’t have kids, I’m just saying.)

The other thing that I’ve seen mentioned as a suggestion is that you teach your kids that they do have the right to say no to an adult. We want polite and compliant kids, but a polite and compliant child is a child who is an easy target.

Also, I’m planning to teach Aaron that it’s okay to bite, scratch and kick if he’s in danger. I don’t care if it’s not a fair fight. When my child’s life or safety are in danger, fairness goes out the window.


Yes, I’ve long believed that. If someone is attacking someone smaller than they are, they’re already not fighting fair, so why should the other person?

The best long term advice is to stop worrying so much and encourage your and other children to be out and about on their own, gaining experience and providing “cover” for one another.

When I was a kid I was outside, without adult supervision, every waking moment. So were all the other kids in my neighbourhood. I walked to school, and so did most other kids. No one could possibly have snatched one of us without being seen by others of us. One of my neighbours once tried to hit me (for the grand sin of trying to retrieve a ball from his yard) and was met with a hail of gravel from his own driveway thrown by other kids. My younger brother was once slightly beaten up by some bullies on his way home from school. It would have been worse but for the dozens of other kids walking home who saw it and stopped it

Now I hear nothing but paranoid fear from parents stoked up on media coverage of statistically insignificant high profile kidnappings etc. And as a result neighbourhoods are dead, with sad little prisoners at home watching TV. People drive their kids to school even though it’s only a few hundred yards. As a result, those kids that do venture out are better targets because they are the only ones. And what better for kidnappers and housebreakers than quiet streets with no witnesses?

Watching them like a hawk and never letting them out of your sight means that they will be very restricted and when they do go out on their own they will have no experience, and they will be rebellious as all hell and do stupid things as a consequence.

My experience as a child was that those parents who attempted to exercise extreme control had in fact the least control in some ways. My mother had a vague idea where I was most of the time, because she was so cool about it that I didn’t hesitate to tell her.

Some kids’ parents were so strict that if those kids were to tell their parents what they actually intended to do, they would never have been allowed. As a consequence, those parents were thoroughly lied to, and often had no idea where their kids actually were at all.

In terms of “physically” what can the kid do, well, realistically, there’s not much a 35-pound child can do to defend herself against a full-grown adult. Scream and holler, is about all. Draw attention to the situation.

And FWIW, Rilchiam, sometimes there’s absolutely nothing the kid can do. All the “stranger danger” talks in the world aren’t going to help if the guy just walks up and grabs the kid and dumps her in the car, and screaming and hollering didn’t do Samantha Runnion much good.

Samantha Runnion link for non-U.S. Dopers.

A sexual pervert with a predator’s need to kill isn’t going to care how much noise his victim makes, or whether she scratches and bites. He’s going to hoist her into the car and drive off and take care of his need. Period. Boom.

When we heard about it on the news, I said to La Principessa, age 12 but tiny, “You see? I’m not making it up–it really does happen. Strangers really do stop and ask kids to ‘help them find a puppy’ and then grab them, even right in front of their own house.” And she asked, with impeccable logic, “Well, what could that little girl have done, then?”

I thought about it for a minute and then I finally told her, “Well, not much, actually. He stood there talking for a minute, but what he was actually doing was making sure that nobody was watching. So what she could have done would have been to get up and go in the house. But that would have been a lot to ask of a five-year-old, to know somehow that that was what he was doing, ‘casing the joint’. An older kid, or a grownup, might have picked up a peculiar vibe that would have sent her out of arm’s reach, but not a kindergartner. Kindergartners are still babies. You wouldn’t expect a 3-year-old to have known what was going on, either.”

And if a 3-year-old had been abducted, we wouldn’t be sitting around asking, “What could the child have done?” Really, I wouldn’t expect a kid much younger than six to be able to pick up on these kind of bad vibes, to know when an adult is behaving abnormally. It takes a bit more of knocking around the world than a 5-year-old has had.

I know this all sounds awfully negative, Rilch, but life doesn’t come with guarantees. :frowning: Sometimes you just have to give them “The Stranger Danger Talk” and then let them go outside to play.

Or, what Princhester said.

Yeah…I’m beginning to see that.

Also, I talked to my mom about this. She says that when I was a toddler, it was all about choking hazards. Now, that is a serious concern. This was the early '70s: right on the cutting edge of warning labels. She thinks it was a good thing that toys started being manufactured without all the little tiny parts that could fit into a little tiny mouth, or at least labeled accordingly. But the warnings kept extending to popcorn, peanuts, pretzels (heehee!)…and when it got to dog kibble, she realized that if a kid puts dog kibble in their mouth, that’s because they’re two years old, and they’re simply into everything! All you can really do is keep track of your kid and make sure they’re not choking on something at the moment, without cringing from everything that might possibly, remotely, in a million years, be a specific hazard.

And she also kept in mind that my sisters didn’t die, she didn’t die, my dad didn’t die, and none of their siblings died, before they were school-age, and she just had to hope it would be the same for me.

That, plus the fact that adults can choke on things too. My dad once gave the Heimlich to a cow-orker, and he was a hero for weeks. But they didn’t shut down the company breakroom because of it.

Regarding the hypothesis that there’s nothing a 35-pound kid can do to defend him/herself against an adult: probably, but not necessarily. I mean, on occasion Whatsit Jr., who is a 16-pound infant, has yanked my hair hard enough to bring tears to my eyes and almost cause me to drop him.

I think if the kid landed a well-placed kick to the groin, or stabbed the guy’s eyes with outstretched fingers, and then ran like hell, they might have a chance of getting away. It would be worth a shot, in any case, and is better, in my opinion, than just telling a child, “Well, hey, sometimes there’s nothing you can do.”

Princhester is right on, by the way. One of the reasons I really like the apartment complex we’re in is that you can always hear kids on the grounds, running around and playing. Lots of kids. Masses of kids. It’s reassuring in a lot of ways.